Sports Illustrated is an American sports media franchise owned by Time Inc. Its self-titled magazine has over 3 million subscribers and is read by 23 million people each week, including over 18 million men.[4] It was the first magazine with circulation over one million to win the National Magazine Award for General Excellence twice. Its swimsuit issue, which has been published since 1964, is now an annual publishing event that generates its own television shows, videos and calendars.




There were two magazines named Sports Illustrated before the current magazine began on August 16, 1954.[5] In 1936, Stuart Scheftel created Sports Illustrated with a target market for the sportsman. He published the magazine from 1936–1938 on a monthly basis. The magazine was a life magazine size and focused on golf, tennis, and skiing with articles on the major sports. He then sold the name to Dell Publications, which released Sports Illustrated in 1949 and this version lasted 6 issues before closing. Dell's version focused on major sports (baseball, basketball, boxing) and competed on magazine racks against Sport and other monthly sports magazines. During the 1940s these magazines were monthly and they did not cover the current events because of the production schedules. There was no large-base general weekly sports magazine with a national following on actual active events. It was then that Time patriarch Henry Luce began considering whether his company should attempt to fill that gap. At the time, many believed sports was beneath the attention of serious journalism and did not think sports news could fill a weekly magazine, especially during the winter. A number of advisers to Luce, including Life magazine's Ernest Havemann, tried to kill the idea, but Luce, who was not a sports fan, decided the time was right.

The goal of the new magazine was to be basically a magazine, but with sports. Many at Time-Life scoffed at Luce's idea; in his Pulitzer Prize–winning biography, Luce and His Empire, W. A. Swanberg wrote that the company's intellectuals dubbed the proposed magazine "Muscle", "Jockstrap", and "Sweat Socks". Launched on August 16, 1954, it was not profitable (and would not be so for 12 years) and not particularly well run at first, but Luce's timing was good. The popularity of spectator sports in the United States was about to explode, and that popularity came to be driven largely by three things: Economic prosperity, television, and Sports Illustrated.[6]

The early issues of the magazine seemed caught between two opposing views of its audience. Much of the subject matter was directed at upper class activities such as yachting, polo and safaris, but upscale would-be advertisers were unconvinced that sports fans were a significant part of their market.

After more than a decade of steady losses, the magazine's fortunes finally turned around in the 1960s when Andre Laguerre became its managing editor. A European correspondent for Time, Inc., who later became chief of the Time-Life news bureaus in Paris and London (for a time he ran both simultaneously), Laguerre attracted Henry Luce's attention in 1956 with his singular coverage of the Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, which became the core of SI's coverage of those games. In May 1956, Luce brought Laguerre to New York to become assistant managing editor of the magazine. He was named managing editor in 1960, and he more than doubled the circulation by instituting a system of departmental editors, redesigning the internal format,[7] and inaugurating the unprecedented use in a news magazine of full-color photographic coverage of the week's sports events. He was also one of the first to sense the rise of national interest in professional football.[2]

Laguerre also instituted the innovative concept of one long story at the end of every issue, which he called the "bonus piece". These well-written, in-depth articles helped to distinguish Sports Illustrated from other sports publications, and helped launch the careers of such legendary writers as Frank Deford, who in March 2010 wrote of Laguerre, "He smoked cigars and drank Scotch and made the sun move across the heavens ... His genius as an editor was that he made you want to please him, but he wanted you to do that by writing in your own distinct way."[2]

Laguerre is also credited with the conception and creation of the annual Swimsuit Issue, which quickly became, and remains, the most popular issue each year.


From its start, Sports Illustrated introduced a number of innovations that are generally taken for granted today:

  • Liberal use of color photos—though the six-week lead time initially meant they were unable to depict timely subject matter
  • Scouting reports—including a World Series Preview and New Year's Day bowl game round-up that enhanced the viewing of games on television
  • In-depth sports reporting from writers like Robert Creamer, Tex Maule and Dan Jenkins.
  • Regular illustration features by artists like Robert Riger.
  • High school football Player of the Month awards.
  • Inserts of sports cards in the center of the magazine (1954 & 1955)
  • 1994 Launched Sports Illustrated Interactive CD-ROM with StarPress Multimedia, Incorporates player stats, video and highlights from the year in sports.

Color printing

The magazine's photographers also made their mark with innovations like putting cameras at a hockey game and at a basketball game. In 1965, offset printing began to allow the color pages of the magazine to be printed overnight, not only producing crisper and brighter images, but also finally enabling the editors to merge the best color with the latest news. By 1967, the magazine was printing 200 pages of "fast color" a year; in 1983, SI became the first American full-color newsweekly. An intense rivalry developed between photographers, particularly Walter Iooss and Neil Leifer, to get a decisive cover shot that would be on newsstands and in mailboxes only a few days later.[2]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, during Gil Rogin's term as Managing Editor, the feature stories of Frank Deford became the magazine's anchor. "Bonus pieces" on Pete Rozelle, Woody Hayes, Bear Bryant, Howard Cosell and others became some of the most quoted sources about these figures, and Deford established a reputation as one of the best writers of the time.[2]

Regular segments

Who's Hot, Who's Not: A feature on who's on a tear and who's in a slump.

Inside the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, College Football, College Basketball, NASCAR, Golf, Boxing, Horse Racing, Soccer and Tennis (sports vary from issue to issue) has the writers from each sport to address the latest news and rumors in their respective fields.

Faces in the Crowd: honors talented amateur athletes and their accomplishments.

The Point After: A back-page column featuring a rotation of SI writers as well as other contributors. Content varies from compelling stories to challenging opinion, focusing on both the world of sports and the role sports play in society.

Creative freedom that the staff had enjoyed seemed to diminish. By the 1980s and 1990s, the magazine had become more profitable than ever, but many also believed it had become more predictable. Mark Mulvoy was the first top editor whose background contained nothing but sports; he had grown up as one of the magazine's readers, but he had no interest in fiction, movies, hobbies or history. Mulvoy's top writer Rick Reilly had also been raised on SI and followed in the footsteps of many of the great writers that he grew up admiring, but many felt that the magazine as a whole came to reflect Mulvoy's complete lack of sophistication. Mulvoy also hired the current creative director Christopher Hercik. Critics said that it rarely broke (or even featured) stories on the major controversies in sports (drugs, violence, commercialism) any more, and that it focused on major sports and celebrities to the exclusion of other topics.[2]

The proliferation of "commemorative issues" and subscription incentives seemed to some like an exchange of journalistic integrity for commercial opportunism. More importantly, perhaps, many feel that 24-hour-a-day cable sports television networks and sports news web sites have forever diminished the role a weekly publication can play in today's world, and that it is unlikely any magazine will ever again achieve the level of prominence that SI once had.[2]

Nevertheless, Sports Illustrated remains the predominant sports publication in print journalism with a consistent weekly circulation topping 3 million per issue.[2]

Sportsman of the Year

Since its inception in 1954, Sports Illustrated magazine has annually presented the Sportsman of the Year award to "the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement." Roger Bannister won the first ever Sportsman of the year award thanks to his record breaking time of 3:59.4 for a mile (the first ever time a mile had been run under four minutes).

Mike Krzyzewski & Pat Summitt were named co-sportsmen of the year for 2011 for their work as NCAA basketball coaches. Drew Brees was the sportsman of the year for 2010 after leading the New Orleans Saints to their first ever Super Bowl win. Derek Jeter was Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 2009. Jeter led the New York Yankees to their 27th World Series Title in 2009 while batting .334 in the regular season and taking home the 2009 Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for American League shortstops.

Sportsman of the Century

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named Muhammad Ali, the Sportsman of the Century, at the Sports Illustrated's 20th Century Sports Awards in New York's Madison Square Garden.[2]

All-decade awards and honors

Top sports colleges

For a 2002 list of the top 200 Division I sports colleges in the U.S., see footnote[2]

Cover history

The following list contains the athletes with most covers.[3]

The magazine's cover is the basis of a sports myth known as the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. To find the number of times an athlete has appeared on the cover go to:

Most covers by athlete, 1954–2016

AthleteSportNumber of covers
Michael JordanBasketball50
Muhammad AliBoxing40
LeBron JamesBasketball25
Tiger WoodsGolf24
Magic JohnsonBasketball23
Kareem Abdul-JabbarBasketball22
Tom BradyFootball19

Most covers by team, 1954-May 2008

TeamSportNumber of covers
Los Angeles LakersBasketball67
St. Louis CardinalsBaseball49
Dallas CowboysFootball48
Boston Red SoxBaseball46
Chicago BullsBasketball45
Boston CelticsBasketball44
Los Angeles DodgersBaseball40
Cincinnati RedsBaseball37
San Francisco 49ersFootball33

Most covers by sport, 1954–2009

SportNumber of covers
Pro Football-NFL550
Pro Basketball-NBA325
College Football202
College Basketball181
Track and Field99

Celebrities on the cover, 1954–2010

CelebrityYearSpecial notes
Gary Cooper1959Scuba diving
Bob Hope1963Owner of Cleveland Indians
Shirley MacLaine1964Promoting the film John Goldfarb, Please Come Home
Steve McQueen1971Riding a motorcycle
Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson1977Promoting the film Semi-Tough
Big Bird1977On the cover with Mark Fidrych
Arnold Schwarzenegger1987Caption on cover was Softies
Chris Rock2000Wearing Los Angeles Dodgers hat
Stephen Colbert2009Caption: Stephen Colbert and his Nation save the Olympics
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale2010Promoting the film The Fighter
Brad Pitt2011Promoting the film Moneyball

Fathers and sons who have been featured on the cover

Archie ManningPeyton & Eli Manning
Calvin HillGrant Hill
Bobby HullBrett Hull
Bill WaltonLuke Walton
Jack NicklausGary Nicklaus
Phil SimmsChris Simms
Dale EarnhardtDale Earnhardt, Jr.
Cal Ripken, Sr.Cal Ripken, Jr. & Billy Ripken
Mark McGwirehis son Matt
Drew Breeshis son Baylen
Boomer Esiasonhis son Gunnar
Chuck Liddellhis son Cade

Presidents who have been featured on the cover

PresidentSI cover dateSpecial notes
John F. KennedyDecember 26, 1960First Lady Jackie Kennedy also on cover and Kennedy was President-Elect at the time of the cover.
Gerald FordJuly 8, 1974Cover came one month before President Richard Nixon announced he would resign from the Presidency.
Ronald ReaganNovember 26, 1984On cover with Georgetown Hoyas basketball coach John Thompson and Patrick Ewing
Ronald ReaganFebruary 16, 1987On cover with America's Cup champion Dennis Conner
Bill ClintonMarch 21, 1994On cover about the Arkansas college basketball team

Tribute covers (In Memoriam)

AthleteSI cover dateSpecial notes
Len BiasJune 30, 1986Died of a cocaine overdose just after being drafted by the Boston Celtics
Arthur AsheFebruary 15, 1993Tennis great and former US Open champion who died from AIDS
Reggie LewisAugust 9, 1993Celtics player who died due to a heart defect
Mickey MantleAugust 21, 1995Died after years of battling alcoholism
Walter PaytonNovember 8, 1999Died from rare liver disorder
Dale EarnhardtFebruary 26, 2001Died in a crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Brittanie CecilApril 1, 2002Fan killed as the result of being struck with a puck to the head while in the crowd at a Columbus Blue Jackets game
Ted WilliamsJuly 15, 2002Boston Red Sox who died of cardiac arrest
Johnny UnitasSeptember 23, 2002Baltimore Colts great who died from heart attack
Pat TillmanMay 3, 2004Arizona Cardinals player who was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.
Ed ThomasJuly 6, 2009Parkersburg, Iowa high school football coach that was gunned down by one of his former players on the morning of June 24, 2009.
John WoodenJune 14, 2010UCLA Basketball coaching legend who died of natural causes at 99 years of age.
Junior SeauMay 2, 2012NFL Hall of Fame linebacker who committed suicide at 43 years of age

Regular columns



  • Peter Read Miller
  • Hy Peskin
  • Chuck Solomn
  • Damian Strohmeyer
  • Al Tielemans


Sports Illustrated has helped launched a number of related publishing ventures, including:

  • Sports Illustrated Kids magazine (circulation 950,000)
    • Launched in January 1989
    • Won the "Distinguished Achievement for Excellence in Educational Publishing" award 11 times
    • Won the "Parents' Choice Magazine Award" 7 times
  • Sports Illustrated Almanac annuals
    • Introduced in 1991
    • Yearly compilation of sports news and statistics in book form
  • sports news web site
  • Sports Illustrated Australia
    • Launched in 1992 and lasted 6 issues **
  • Sports Illustrated Canadian edition
    • Was created and published in Canada with US content from 1993–1995. Most of the issues appear to have the same cover except they say 'Canadian Edition'. These issues are numbered differently in the listing. A group of the Canadian issues have unique Canadian athletes (hockey mostly) and all the Canadian issues may have some different article content. The advertising may also be Canada-centric.
  • Sports Illustrated Presents
    • Launched in 1989
    • This is their tribute and special edition issues that are sold both nationally or regionally as stand alone products. **Originally started with Super Bowl Tributes the product became a mainstay in 1993 with Alabama as the NCAA National Football Champions. Today multiple issues are released including regional releases of the NCAA, NBA, NFL, MLB champions along with special events or special people. Advertising deals are also done with Sports Illustrated Presents (Kelloggs).
  • a 24-hour sports news web site
    • Launched on July 17, 1997
    • Online version of the magazine
    • The domain name was sold in May 2015[3]
  • Sports Illustrated Women magazine (highest circulation 400,000)
    • Launched in March 2000
    • Ceased publication in December 2002 because of a weak advertising climate
  • Sports Illustrated on Campus magazine
    • Launched on September 4, 2003
    • Dedicated to college athletics and the sports interests of college students.
    • Distributed free on 72 college campuses through a network of college newspapers.
    • Circulation of one million readers between the ages of 18 and 24.
    • Ceased publication in December 2005 because of a weak advertising climate